South Africa rose to the occasion again at Lord’s… their bowling attack – led by the world class Kagiso Rabada – was the difference in the first Test, but no one expected this sort of dominance
- South Africa dominated England to win the first Test by an innings and 12 runs
- The Proteas have a fantastic record at Lord’s and proved their class once again
- Bowler Kagiso Rabada led the attack excellently, picking up seven wickets
- Captain Dean Elgar made it clear he wants more fixtures scheduled for his side
South Africa teams have always been inspired by Lord’s and a fifth victory in seven post-isolation Tests, with a draw in 2008 and a solitary loss five years ago, confirms they rise to the occasion more often than not.
Having said that, the end came far sooner than anyone in the team had anticipated.
‘The last thing that crossed my mind when I woke up this morning was that I would be doing a post-match press conference before 5pm today,’ admitted captain Dean Elgar, who was happy to admit that South Africa’s bowling attack had been the major difference between the teams.
South Africa captain Dean Elgar was all smiles after his side’s dominant victory over England
The Proteas’ bowling attack shone at Lord’s, twice dismissing England for under 200
‘Having four fast bowlers and the number three and four are the fastest of the four, that’s pretty nice to have,’ said a smiling Elgar with dry understatement.
The leader of that attack, man-of-the-match Kagiso Rabada, was singled out for special praise. ‘He operates in his own zone and is an absolute gun, he’s brilliant to have in the team but it’s a pretty special bowling attack,’ Elgar said.
When the 35-year-old from the unflattering town of Welkom was appointed Test captain 18 months ago the team was in trouble, mid-table in the world rankings and struggling for direction.
It seemed unlikely, if not impossible, that his goal of again reaching the top and qualifying for the World Test Championship final could be realised, but now both are tantalisingly within reach.
Kagiso Rabada, the leader of South Africa’s attack, took seven wickets in the match
The fast bowler was awarded ‘Player of the Match’ after his five-wicket haul in the first innings
Not that he is allowing this victory to affect his outlook, or that of his players. ‘I hope they don’t become complacent, I certainly won’t be letting them because I’ve seen what complacency can do in professional sport,’ Elgar said.
‘But it’s a good reflection of what we’ve done and achieved in the last year and that’s why we have that ranking.
‘You need to play every game like it’s your last game, that’s my mantra. It will be hard to stay there but if we keep playing the way we’ve been playing and conducting ourselves on and off the field, worrying about the small things and caring for each other like we do, more often than not results look after themselves.’
Elgar’s counterpart Ben Stokes has plenty to ponder ahead of the second Test next week
Elgar was critical of the scheduling of fixtures in the near future for South Africa’s Test team
Elgar said he had not fully digested the contents and ramifications of the recently released ICC Future Tours Programme, but he had seen the contents.
‘All I know is we are scheduled to play only 28 Tests in the next four to five years and that I better not comment too much on that in case I get into trouble.’
Not only do the Proteas play only 28 Tests but 22 of them are in 11 two-match series, with just two three-match series against England and Australia.
The Proteas remain top of the World Test Championship after a dominant victory at Lord’s
Elgar’s team have risen from the ashes since the batter was made captain 18 month ago
The rise of Elgar’s team, no matter what they do on the field, has been cut short by the game’s administrators and the pursuit of short-term, short-form cash from T20 cricket, with Elgar’s employers, Cricket South Africa, as guilty as anyone by refusing to schedule Test matches during the height of the South African summer to prioritise its own, new T20 league.
Elgar is as ‘old-school’ a player as there remains in the world today and knows only too well the pressure that the Test format is under.
Had his team flopped at Lord’s, or should they do so in the second and third Tests at Old Trafford and the Oval, he is all too aware that the threads by which Test cricket is hanging in South Africa could snap.
It is not an exaggeration to suggest that this series may be the most important in the country’s history.